Sir Martin Rees: Six ways to infinity… and beyond

martin rees1. Spotting distant planets that may sustain life will require a telescope larger than anything currently available. When it starts operation in the early 2020s, the European “Extremely Large Telescope”, with a mosaic mirror more than 39m across, will target for observation planets of similar size to Earth that are orbiting stars much like our Sun.

2. Because of the obvious dangers, Professor Rees says spaceflight should not be billed as “tourism” in the style of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. However, he believes five-day trips taking paying customers around the Moon are likely within a decade. Round trips to Mars, taking about 500 days, are the next step, as recently proposed by the US tycoon Dennis Tito.

3. By the end of the 21st century tiny flotillas of robotic space exploration craft, aided and abetted by the successors to the Hubble Telescope, will map the entire Solar System – planets, moons and asteroids – initially with a view to the possible exploitation of minerals.

4. Don’t expect mass emigration any time soon – our universe is too inhospitable. However, in a century or more, colonies of adventurous humans are likely to be living independently from the Earth – either on asteroids or on Mars.

5. The time needed to travel to nearby stars will far exceed a human lifespan. Interstellar travel, therefore, will only be an option for what Prof Rees calls “post-humans”, who evolve (not by natural selection, but by design) to cope with hibernation or suspended animation.

6. Hypercomputers will have the power to simulate living organisms – perhaps even entire worlds or “virtual universes”, incorporating artificial life. This would then allow for a new kind of “virtual time-travel”.

Read more at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/sir-martin-rees-six-ways-to-infinity-and-beyond-8581498.html

Scientists could find alien life within 40 years

… says royal astronomer

The Queen’s astronomer Martin Rees Photo: Jay Williams

Martin Rees, former president of the Royal Society, said evidence of whether beings exist not only beyond earth but beyond our solar system, could be found in that time, a newspaper reported.
Lord Rees said he believed that astro-physicists could be able to view images of distant planets outside the solar system as soon as 2025. This could potentially lead to the discovery of some form of life on them.
When asked what changes could be expected in science in the next 40 years, he said understanding more about the “origin of life, the place where it exists, and whether aliens exist, is going to be crucial”, the Daily Mail reported.
The astronomer was speaking at the launch of Professor Stephen Hawking’s new series Grand Design, due to begin next Thursday on the Discovery Channel.
Lord Rees, who has been Astronomer Royal – a senior position within the Royal Household offering advice to the Queen on astronomical matters – since 1995, said: “Within 10 or 20 years we will be able to image other planets like the earth, orbiting other stars.
“That will be a really exciting subject to see if there is evidence for [extra-terrestrial] life or not.”
However it was suggested earlier this year that rather more earthbound concerns may hold such research back.
It emerged in June that astronomers scanning the universe for signs of extra-terrestrial activity were facing a financial crisis that threatened to stall the 52-year search for intelligent life beyond Earth.
The respected SETI Institute in California will be forced to curtail radio telescope operations, which search space for signals from other worlds, unless it can plug a multi-million dollar funding gap.
Read more: telegraph.co.uk